Newly-elected Sangrur MP Simranjit Singh Mann had already created minor row in the Lok Sabha over how a woman President should be addressed, two days before Congress senior leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s ‘Rashtrapatni’ remarks on President Droupadi Murmu had created a huge controversy on the floor of the Lok Sabha and grabbed all the headlines. Many had taken offence in the Lower House when Mann had suggested that an alternative term should be used to refer to a female President. With Mann stating that Murmu shouldn’t be addressed as ‘Rashtrapati,’ many MPs had called for his remarks to be removed from the records.
Mann had defended his stand and said that “it is wrong to call a lady President Rashtrapati as it’s an insult to her,” while talking to the Indian Express. A day after Murmu took oath, Mann made these remarks in Lok Sabha on July 26 while the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju was replying to a debate on the Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022. Mann, while replying to Rijiju’s answer, pointed out that the law minister had called the President as Rashtrapati. Seeking to understand how a woman President should be called, many MPs protested against his remarks as Mann’s observations were expunged from the records.
While opposing Mann’s ‘derogatory’ remarks MPs from BJP and BJD said that the issue has already been discussed during the Constituent Assembly debates post Independence, and can be discussed ‘separately,’ while asking the Speaker DMK’s A Raja to expunge Mann’s observations.
However, this is not the first time when someone raised the issue asking whether the word Rashtrapati is a gender-neutral term. When India got its first female President in Pratibha Patil, many activists had held that the word in itself is gender-biased. While a lot of constitutional experts had put forth the Constituent Assembly debates where such a matter was taken up and put to rest, while adding that Rashtrapati is a simple Hindi translation of the word President, which in itself is gender-neutral. Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray had suggested the word ‘Rashtradhyaksh’ in the party mouthpiece Saamana back in June 2007.
During the Constituent Assembly debates, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, while dismissing other arguments, had gone with the word ‘Rashtrapati.’
Chowdhury, who recently landed in soup over ‘Rashtrapatni’ remark, has tendered a formal apology to President Murmu. “I am writing to express my regret for having mistakenly used an incorrect word to describe the position you hold. I assure you that it was a slip of the tongue. I apologize and request you to accept the same,” Chowdhury said in his letter to the President.